Travelling during term time at university doesn’t always work out how you imagine. It could be hard being drowned by essays and readings, especially when the travel bug has got you bad. But I’m here to show you it can be done! I’ve been studying in London this last summer and on my weekends I’ve spent my time travelling the United Kingdom and Europe.
Brussels and Bruges
Stop one, Brussels, and Brugge…One of the prettiest locations my flatmates and I visited. Since we decided 2 days before departure to head on a Belgian adventure. We took an overnight bus, the cheapest last minute options, 6 hours from the centre of London to get the heart of Brussels. Our thought was we’ll just sleep on the bus, not taking into account we would have to venture through French and Belgian customs, but even with the sleep deprivation, we had a blast.
Our first day we wandered around Brussels hitting all the touristy spots and expanding our stomachs to new levels. We ventured to the sparkling Grand Palace where everything is coated with glistening gold accents. The surrounding area was filled with shops containing souvenirs, clothes, and mounds of Belgian chocolate. We ended up opting for some Belgian waffles, ironically named the Australian Waffle Place, which is now my absolute favourite dessert. You can also hop onto a free tour in this area and head over to the infamously underwhelming Mannequin Pisse. Yes it is a statue of a child peeing, and yes Brussels is famous for it.
For day two in Belgium we made our way to Bruges, only an hour bus ride away from Brussels. It was like entering a fairytale with the cobblestone streets, brick buildings and quaint canals. We spent the day just wandering around taking photos with ice cream from Eddy’s Ice Cream. But if you want to see the city in a different way, you may also decide to catch a tour by boat.
While Brussels and Brugge are gorgeous, you can definitely see them each in a day, just don’t forget to grabs a cone of fries with mayo and ketchup before you leave, you won’t regret it.
I have to say I was least excited for this trip, not knowing much about Scotland, but I absolutely fell in love with it. The streets of Edinburgh are lined with classic cobblestone paths and castle-like buildings. They even have tours available at the Edinburgh Castle, where you can see some of the best views of the city.
We spent our first day walking around the sites and opted to join a free Harry Potter walking tour around the city. Whether your a Harry Potter fanatic or indeed couldn’t care less, the trip was an excellent and free introduction to Edinburgh. Our tour ended close to the DogHouse, a pub offering an assortment of good food, fun games and authentic butter beers to sip. The decor is pretty funky here too! After some shopping and more sightseeing, we made our way to Calton Hill to see the sunset. Although we got there a bit late, this was by far my favourite spot in Edinburgh. The hill is filled with rich architecture, stunning views and makes for a truly memorable experience.
On our last day we explore part of the University of Edinburgh, with buildings and campuses that are scattered throughout the city and hiked up to Arthur’s Seat. If you’re scared of heights (like I am) you may find it a little scary, but it’s definitely worth preserving . The hike is not super challenging, but I took a break about every ten minutes. Once at the top you can see the beautiful green hills for miles, feeling on top of the world; I would recommend bringing a jacket since the top can get a bit windy.
After heading back to the centre of Edinburgh, we took some time to grab quinoa salad, fresh quiche, and homemade lemonade at a local street market. We continues to chill in the lovely park residing in the center of this stunning city under the sun. The park is filled with historical sculptures and fountains, an art lovers paradise, connecting to one of Scotland’s National Gallery’s. If you want to escape for the weekend, Scotland and more specifically Edinburgh is the place to go.
The final destination we decided to visit was Paris. And after about thirty minutes I decided I was moving there. However not everyone has the same reaction to this city. It’s an acquired taste, but definitely a popular one.
Like with our other Europe adventures we opted to save money and took the coach from London to Paris. It was a 9 hour journey and if you could scrounge together the money, I would recommend getting the Eurostar. About 2 hours into hour bus ride we went through French customs and a lovely 2 hours later were surprised by having to take a ferry to Lille and then wait another 2 hours for our final bus to Paris. Meanwhile I had a five page paper to finish by the next morning. It was quite the experience, but hey we kind of got a free cruise out of it…
We arrived at our destination, located a stone’s throw away from Notre Dame and instantly I fell in love. There were people on the street playing songs like La Vie En Rose on the violin, an endless amount of bakeries with chocolate croissants and vendors selling art all along the pathways. We grabbed quiche for breakfast and ended up eating it on the path surrounding the edges of the Seine.
Once fed we headed to the Louvre, where we had to get ‘that’ photo with the Louvre Pyramid. After this we ended up wandering through the Latin Quarter. Although unplanned, we stopped in the Shakespeare and Company bookstore (and even though I’m not the biggest fan of literature) it was by far one of the coolest things we did. They don’t allow photos inside so you must go in person if you want to experience the beautiful store. Just a tip, in the back room you get to see the stores adorable cat Aggie and maybe even get to stroke her. After sunset, we made our way over to the Eiffel Tower for the spectacular light show. If you can, I would definitely recommend going at night, something about the twinkling lights reflecting on the water with the sound of a classical violin being played in the background is magical.
We spent half of our last day in the Gardens of Versailles and it was the most beautiful place I’ve ever seen. It’s about an hour to an hour and a half outside of the city on the train, but it’s worth the journey. The grass is manicured in swirling patterns lined with flowers, statues, secret gardens, and elaborate fountains. The grounds are so extensive that there is a pond where you can actually rent small boats and row around. Not to mention the insanely beautiful palace. We underestimated the size of Versailles, so we opted to skip the tours inside the palace and focused our attention primarily on the gardens. Finally returning back to Paris for our last few hours, we hiked the steps of Montmartre to the top of Sacre-Coeur, walked around the many streets vendors at the top of the hill and grabbed a bite to eat by the Moulin Rouge. By far Paris is my favourite city. I could have spent at least a week here, but if you only have a couple of days, it is still well worth the trip.
Even though you may have to write a couple essays at the airport, or beg your hostel for a room with better WiFi, travelling during term is definitely worth it and possible. It could be overwhelming at times figuring out a budget and itinerary, but things always find a way of working out in the end. You only live once after all…so go on and plant your next adventure!
Summer Kailani is a student at the University of California Berkeley studying Anthropology and French. She has a passion for traveling and takes every opportunity she has to explore new places. You can follow her travel adventures on Instagram.